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The Fundamentals of a High-Performing          Sales Team

Blog Post

This blog is written in collaboration with ESI Partner Doqaru and Alan Maguire, Founder-CEO of ESI – a leading global online sales training and certification solutions provider. He is also a Non-Executive Director of CustomerMinds, a Partner at Leaf Investments and a Founding Partner at Versari Partners. Alan has decades of experience in both the multinational & start-up IT sector, having run businesses, commercial & sales organisations across the globe.


One of the most asked questions by companies about sales and sales talent challenges is:

How do you turn a performing sales team into a high-performing one?

This question is on the minds of professionals across the organisation, including sales leadership, sales enablement, HR, talent, learning and development in larger businesses, and even sales professionals themselves. 8 out of 10 UK companies don’t provide a sales training budget. Yet, enabling your existing teams to outperform is the fastest way to business success, so the preoccupation is unsurprising.

In this blog, I explore the dynamics of high-performance sales and offer insights to lift your team from ordinary to exceptional.


What Sets High-Performing Sales Teams Apart?

When it comes to sales performance, organisations often nail one half of the equation. They have:

  • A sales and marketing technology stack
  • Adopted a methodology and a process
  • Tips and tricks about how to write a prospecting e-mail or manage a sales call
  • Agreed metrics and management reporting dashboards.

This architecture – a blend of technology, methodology and process – is the critical foundation of a functioning sales organisation. It will often drive sales performance to a good standard. Organisations with this foundation typically nail what their salespeople need to do. So far, so good, right?

But it is only one-half of the high-performance equation.


Components of a High-Performance Mindset

When we have looked at high-performing sales teams, they operate this architecture the same as everybody else. Yet, reaching that extra, consistent and high-performance level is not about what these teams do.

What sets high-performing teams apart is how they think.

How teams think is simple in concept but manifests in several ways. Organisations struggle with it because it is hard to measure and often doesn’t fit on a dashboard.

Among other things, it is about mindset, attitude and professionalism. It’s about how sales professionals show up in the workplace every single day.

This high-performance mindset shows up in a suite of soft skills, and while those skills might be hard to measure, they are evident in a high-performing sales team. The full list of skills is a long one, but some of the most common and visible traits of high-performing sales teams include:

Components of a High-Performing Sales Mindset | ESI


Sales is one of the most rewarding professions. You’re dealing with people, solving problems, creating solutions and delivering results. That last bit is non-negotiable. Perhaps more than any other function in the business, salespeople operate in a black-and-white world. They either close the deal or they don’t. In short, they win, or they lose.

But to win consistently, the high-performing sales team will lose much more than they win. Think about that for a second…

They will have to deal with failure a lot more than success. That is true adversity and demands A LOT of resilience. High-performing teams embrace that adversity and have the skills and processes to deal with it.

These teams don’t dwell on the losses. They don’t ignore them – they learn from them and then move on. More importantly, high-performing sales teams celebrate and enjoy the wins as a team. Those moments are hard-earned by everyone involved.


Being honest is another major characteristic of high-performing salespeople. They are honest with the business, line management, and, most importantly, themselves.

Delusion is arguably the biggest enemy of high performance. In today’s world, where sales professionals often have to operate alone, the need to drive yourself honestly and candidly comes at a premium.

High-performing salespeople are their own leaders. They diagnose and size problems, which drives them to source solutions in real-time – quickly eliminating any threats to achieving their target.

These teams are not ignoring the reality. They understand that they have fixed goals, and pretending they will achieve them despite the data suggesting otherwise is not an effective approach. These teams excel because they are quick to identify problems, allowing more time for finding and implementing solutions.

Always learning

Continuous learning is more about culture as much as skills and is linked to resilience and honesty. High-performing sales teams recognise that they never stop learning. Top performers realise that what might be true today may be redundant tomorrow.

Great teams use every experience as a learning opportunity – for the person, team, and business.

  • Great teams recognise that everything they do, good and bad, adds value to the business.
  • They reflect on what went well and set themselves up to do more of it.
  • High-performers look at where things went wrong and take steps to ensure it happens less often.

Every lesson from customer and prospect engagement is gold dust for a business that needs to grow and evolve. High-performing sales teams create the space to learn and provide feedback to their wider organisation.


High-Performance: If You Can’t See It, You Can’t Be It

One of the challenges of high-performance traits is that they are intangible and hard to measure. As a result, it is often easy for organisations to ignore them. As the saying goes, “if you can’t measure it, you cannot manage it.” Right?








In high-performance organisations, it is common to integrate certain traits and values into their daily operations. Reflecting on the traits I mentioned earlier, consider how these behaviours can be made visible to everyone in the environment.

  • Does the organisation encourage colleagues to embrace adversity? Are people chastised or even blamed for (inevitable) sales losses? Or does everyone take the opportunity to reflect on and learn from what happened? Are wins celebrated, whatever they might be? Not in some anachronistic ‘ring the bell and back to the salt mines’ manner, but truly celebrated as a team?
  • Do people in the organisation prioritise honesty? How do colleagues and management respond to negative news? Are salespeople expected to report a realistic forecast, even if it falls short of expectations? Or is it acceptable to make overly optimistic projections that never come true?
  • What is the learning culture of the business and the sales team? Do the team members rely too heavily on the tools provided? How do management and colleagues respond to questions asked during meetings or offline? Does the organisation take any steps to address identified skills gaps when raised by sales professionals or line managers?

If you and your organisation are honest, you should be able to recognise the presence or absence of these behaviours in your organisation. A high-performance culture may not be data-driven or measurable in a dashboard. But it is as real as the daily behaviours you can observe with the naked eye. All you need to do is look out for them.


How Can You Build a High-Performing Sales Team?

building high performing sales teams

There is a wide range of things that you can do to take your team from regular to high performing. In many ways, this is a process and not a task. It is never complete, so it needs to become baked into day-to-day operations and culture. Here are a few suggestions to get started:

Hire for High-Performance: Look for the Right Skills, Attitude, and Cultural Fit

Start as you mean to go on. Bake a thorough search for these sales skills in your recruitment process to identify high-performing candidates. Evaluate candidates based on their experience with adversity and how they responded to it. Check how they evaluate their pipeline and forecast and communicate its reality. Above all, really probe to see if they have a growth mindset. Ask yourself, do they love to learn? And are they coachable?

Expect and Embrace Skills Gaps: Do Something About It

There is a global shortage of sales talent and skills. Commercial roles are the hardest for employers to fill worldwide. In practical terms, it is unlikely that many of your salespeople have the skills they need to sell to a high-performance level. Over time, those skills gaps can be identified and addressed with long-term development and behavioural change. Low-performing organisations observe and lament the skills shortage in their talent. High-performing ones do something about it.

Foster a High-Performance Environment: Truly Enable Teamwork and Collaboration Within Your Sales Team

This is easier than you think. It doesn’t have to be a long-drawn-out strategic plan. You can start right now. Begin with the culture and behaviours we identified above; test yourself and your organisation for how you match up to those high-performance traits. You can start by reflecting on these questions:

  • After a difficult sales call, will you blame the prospect, the process or the product? Or will you take time to review and reflect on what your team can learn from the experience?
  • When a customer wants something outrageous, will the organisation collectively moan? Or roll up its virtual sleeves and get excited about creating a solution?
  • Reflect on the last time you offered or were given feedback by your manager, colleague, customer or prospect. How often does that really happen? And when it does, do you do something about it?

In summary, high performance isn’t easy. Otherwise, everyone would be high performing. But it is not as hard as you might think. High performance isn’t about what people do, although processes and structures are essential foundations for every sales organisation. The secret to consistent and exceptional performance is anchored in how your people think around those structures and processes. As a leader, you can do many things to make that happen, all day and every day.


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